Dear Ambrose: I realize that Sundays are not a part of Lent. Should I be doing anything different for our Lenten liturgies? Signed, Curious

Dear Curious,

You are correct!  Sundays are always a celebration of the resurrection and are in Lent.  They are not of Lent. 

However, the only experience many of our parishioners have of Lent is in the Sunday liturgy.  While we don’t strive for gloom and doom in our services there are some ways in which our Lenten liturgies and speak to the inward journey of this season.

  • This is probably a good time to put away the thrilling descants and alternative accompaniments.
  • If you usually have a procession down the center aisle each Sunday you might think about having the clergy et al enter from a side door.  The choir could already be seated. 
  • Instead of a big hymn to start the liturgy the choir could chant a psalm—not the one appointed for Sunday but maybe the psalm appointed for Sunday in the Daily Office readings.
  • Another option would be to sing a Taizé or other short song to begin the liturgy.  The purpose would be to “pray” the song by singing it multiple times. 
  • A change of service music for Lent is always a good idea. 
  • Using the Penitential Order establishes a tone for the service. 
  • Some intentional silences can be very effective.  If your parish is not used to silences it is a good thing to note them in the service leaflet. 
  • If the altar party entered the space from the side, it is a good idea to have them exit the same way.
  • At one parish I know of, the water in the baptismal font was replaced with rocks and sand to emphasize that Lent is a “desert” season.
  • Think about omitting altar flowers and replacing them with sticks and other dried material.

These are a few ways in which your congregation can experience the “desert time” of our Lenten journey.  By using some of these ideas, the glorious processions and joyful music will make Easter stand out all the more.